Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Avanturine

Recovered by Roger Theobold of TWSAC

Avanturine (named by TWSAC
Brass lettering on the bows bearing the ship’s name was found by Roger Theabald, thus firming up her identity.
The Avanturine bow is the most dominant part of the area, in 28 meters of water.  The bow section is some 20 meters long and stands 7 meters proud with a 12lb gun just 2 meters off her bows.
An Admiralty-requisitioned trawler working as a minesweeper, torpedoed by German E-boats on 1 December, 1943. Bow lettering with the ship's name and a lantern bearing the name identified the wreck in 1992.
Lantern found by Paul Dwyer


Report below taken from the web,thanks to uploader;
The AVANTURINE was built by Cook, Welton & Gemmill in Beverley, UK and launched in 1930. She was requisitioned in February 1940 as an Auxillary Patrol Vessel based out of Aberdeen. In 1942 the AVANTURINE was converted to a Minesweeper and formed part of the Minesweeping Group 69 Flotilla.

She had a displacement of 296 tons and was armed with a 12 Pounder and Anti Aircraft Guns. In September 1943 the AVANTURINE was ordered to Tilbury to join another five minesweepers moving Thames barges along the coast.

HM Trawler AVANTURINE was torpedoed and sunk by a German Motor Torpedo Boat, with all hands lost in the early hours of 1st December 1943, including my Grandfather, James Moir Gatt, born Pennan, Aberdeenshire.

Here are as many details as I can find. The following is composed from RN records, internet sites, exchanges between myself and Leading Seaman Gunnery Mr M. Copeman (crew member of the AVANTURINE), Mr E. Heath, crew member of HM Trawler FLORIO and Mr Mayo, crew member of HM Trawler PETER CAREY

A week before the 1st of December 1943, on the evening of 23rd November 1943, the Newhaven Lifeboat, the “Cecil and Lilian Philpott” was launched following a request from the Naval Officer-in charge. The request was for the Lifeboat to go in search of HM Trawler AVANTURINE that was reported aground off a rocky lee shore in very shallow water off Cuckmere

The weather was atrocious with exceptionally heavy seas, a full South Westerly gale blowing and torrential rain. The Lifeboat found the Trawler and made plans to drop her anchor and manoever down the leeward side of the trawler.

The Lifeboat had run out about 40 fathoms of cable, when suddenly the trawler appeared out of the darkness, heading straight for the lifeboat. The Coxswain of the Lifeboat slammed his engines full astern, but a heavy sea swept the lifeboat right across the bows of the advancing AVANTURINE and the trawler crashed into her port side amid-ships. The impact severly damaged the Lifeboat and one crew member, Mr B J Clark was lost overboard in the collision. His body was later found on the beach.

Despite suffering severe damage the Lifeboat managed to limp back to Newhaven, assisted by Shoreham Lifeboat and escorting the AVANTURINE.

A week later, the Flotilla lead by HM Trawler FLORIO, headed for Tilbury. The AVANTURINE was under tow by HM Trawler PETER CAREY, when the Flotilla came under attack from two German MTB’s just off Beach Head in the early hours of 1st December 1943.

The War Cabinet “Weekly Resume No. 222” refers to the attack by the two German MTB’s and says that “on the night of the 1st/2nd December 1943, E-boats attempted to attack an eastbound convoy off Beachy Head, but were beaten off by MGB’s. and armed trawlers. One trawler was sunk”.

That trawler was the AVANTURINE. She had been attacked by the German Motor Torpedo Boat S-142. S-142 was a Lursesen built craft which had a displacement of 96 tons, was capable of 39 knots. It was armed with two 533mm torpedo tubes and two 20mm Machine Guns.

The AVANTURINE was being towed some 200-300 yards behind HM Trawler “Peter Carey” when it was struck by a torpedo. The Flotilla fired “starshells” into the sky and identified two E-boats. The Flotilla opened up with machine gun fire and the crew of the “Peter Carey” cut the AVANTURINE loose and all the crew were lost.

The only body to be found after the sinking was the AVANTURINE’s skipper Edward Gillard whose body was found on the beach days later. He is buried in a cemetery in Bexhill.

The introduction to this note mentions Mr M Copeland as being a member of the crew of the AVANTURINE. I have spoken to Mat and he clearly recalls my Grandfather. Mat however, has lived with the guilt of being the “only survivor” from the trawler. Mat wrote this to me:

“I had leave to be married. We had arranged the wedding around 22nd November 1943 as the ship was due for a refit and boiler cleaning about this date. However, about two months before this date the ship was ordered to proceed from Aberdeen to Tilbury, there we joined another 5 sweepers. The task was towing Thames barges around the South coast to different ports, each ship towing two barges. The number of barges to be moved would take about three months. The barges had been fitted with ramps as on landing craft. I was given leave on 21st November 1943 until 1st December 1943. I arrived back at Tilbury at 0900 on the 1st December 1943 to be told by the Port Naval Officer that the AVANTURINE had been torpedoed and all the crew lost”

I have two first hand accounts of the sinking of the AVANTURINE. The first is from Mr Mayo, who was an 18 year old seaman aboard HM Trawler PETER CAREY. He recalls the events of that night, with the AVANTURINE under tow. He said “there was a huge explosion astern, we fired starshells and then opened up on the attacking German E-boats”. He then said “the Skipper of the HM Trawler PETER CAREY refused to go back in search of survivors”.

The second account is from Mr E Heath. His account of that night was that “I was on the FLORIO which was Flotilla Leader. It was a black night, the AVANTURINE was being towed by a Tug, then it was hit by a torpedo. We were shouting to our Skipper, who was a 2 ½ Ringer to go back for survivors, but he said he would not risk the rest of the ships”.

The German Motor Torpedo Boat S-142 was later sunk by allied aircraft in Le Harve on 15th June 1944

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